Chancellor Banks – Embracing Generative AI: Preparing Our Students for the Future (05/19/23)

Dear Colleagues,

As leaders in education, we need to embrace and understand new technology and how our students use it. Innovations in technology have the potential to transform the world our students enter and to transform how we prepare them for that world. One such innovation is the recent emergence of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, such as ChatGPT, Bing AI, and DALL-E2. These tools are new to us — and to our students and communities. They can feel scary, but they also have potential to support our work, our students, and our goals. Moreover, as AI reshapes the jobs and careers available to our students, it is our responsibility to ensure they are not only equipped to utilize AI but also to critically examine its implications. As various industries learn how to use AI in their own work, it is critical we learn how AI can support your work. To that end, we will continue engaging with educators, students, families, industry professionals, and thought leaders to explore the most effective ways to incorporate generative AI into the classroom — all while acknowledging risks and pragmatic concerns, from equitable access to plagiarism.

New York City Public Schools is committed to taking the lead in understanding and harnessing this technology for our students, and I encourage you to consider engaging with generative AI in the classroom and in your work. We are working to provide you with support and opportunities to explore AI in your school, and welcome your thoughts on what else would be helpful.

As you and your community explore how you might use generative AI in your school, I encourage that you consider the following: 

  • Read this op-ed, which underscores my support for you as we explore this technology together.
  • Watch this video of your colleague, Principal Patrick Burns from M.S. 217, where he discusses his decision-making process of making generative AI available to his school community. The video features specific examples of how educators and students have begun using and critically evaluating generative AI in their school.
  • Take this optional, on-demand course that our team created, designed to give you a foundational knowledge on artificial intelligence and generative AI. It also will show you some of the ways that teachers are using generative AI in their classrooms, and provide resources for leaders and educators.
  • Tell us about your experience with generative AI, so we can use your feedback to create new tools and resources to support you and our students.
  • Celebrate the with your school community. Created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education (MIT RAISE), this curriculum provides introductory activities that will provide your students with AI literacy that can be used at any time during the school year. 
  • Encourage families to read a story or informative text from the Digital Citywide Library Artificial Intelligence collection on SORA
  • As always, if you wish to use ChatGPT or other filtered applications in your classrooms, talk to your principal about requesting access by completing a web filtering request form. (To ensure student safety and privacy, please be mindful that any application that students use or that requires student data must follow our third party software policy.)

For your awareness, we are already experimenting with generative AI to streamline our own work. We recently launched Eureka, a chatbot that uses Microsoft’s AI technology, to be the first point of contact with employees and families calling the IT Help Desk. This allows employees and families to receive faster, personalized support.

I very much look forward to hearing from you as we work together to prepare our students for the exciting possibilities that generative AI will bring.

Soaring high,

David C. Banks